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A Purple Squirrel In Pennsylvania Provokes A Host Of Theories

The purple squirrel captured in Jersey Shore, Pa.
The purple squirrel captured in Jersey Shore, Pa.

A purple squirrel that was captured in Jersey Shore, Pa., has a bunch of people scratching their heads. The AP reports that Percy Emert and his wife, Connie, spotted the squirrel in their yard, then decided to try to lure it into a trap using some peanuts.

This week, the squirrel found its way into the trap.The AP reports:

"'I thought, "Nobody's going to believe me,"' [Percy] said. 'Even the inside of its ears were purple. It wasn't like it fell into something. It didn't look like that at all.'

"The animal quickly became an online sensation and even has its own Facebook page.

"After the couple released the squirrel Tuesday, Percy Emert said a state game warden came by and took samples of purple fur that the squirrel left behind inside the cage, as well as six to eight pieces of fur that Percy Emert took from the squirrel's tail before releasing it.

"'It looked like it was healthy, the only thing was that its teeth were brown,' he said."

Accuweather first reported the story today and the purple squirrel has 4,449 likes on Facebook.

But, really, the question is: What's going on here?

The AP spoke to a curator at the Pittsburgh Zoo who had two theories: The squirrel could have come in contact with a pokeberry patch, but they're not in season. Or maybe it fell into a portable toilet that had blue coloring.

Accuweather quotes Krish Pillai, a professor at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, who had a more serious theory.

"This is not good at all. That color looks very much like Tyrian purple. It is a natural organobromide compound seen in mollusks and rarely found in land animals. The squirrel (possibly) has too much bromide in its system," he said.

Pillai, however,is a computer engineering expert, so we're not sure how credible that theory is.

For the record, the Emerts told Accuweather that they did not dye the squirrel. "We just found it and it was purple," said Connie Emert.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.